Cannes 2021: Here are all 24 films competing for the Palme d'Or

The festival, which was cancelled last year, returns from July 6 to 17 with a rich crop of alumni vying for the top prize

The French Retreat. Courtesy Searchlight Pictures

The Cannes Film Festival returns next week, promising to bury the long months of darkness and solitude under an avalanche of celebrity and chin-stroking arthouse cinema.

It is billed as nothing less than a resurrection. "Cinema is not dead!" festival supremo Thierry Fremaux declared last month.

It is the first major fully-fledged film festival since the pandemic, and a truckload of Hollywood stars – from Timothee Chalamet to Nicole Kidman to Matt Damon – are expected on the Promenade de la Croisette between July 6 and 17.

It's not quite a return to normal, of course, even if France's Covid numbers have been steadily falling and most restrictions lifted.

Workers wash the windows during the preparations for the Cannes festival at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France, on June 25, 2021. Photo by Lionel Urman/ABACAPRESS.COM

There will be no "bises" – the French-style peck on the cheeks – at the top of the fabled steps to the Palais des Festivals. And some of the glitz will be toned down, with many after-parties cancelled and the big galas cutting their invite lists in half to meet social distancing guidelines.

Organisers are also slowly waking up to the fact that the sight of celebrities and moguls arriving on private jets and mega-yachts doesn't seem so chic in an age of impending climate disaster.

So this year: no plastic, lots of electric cars, and most symbolic of all: a red carpet that is half the size and made from recycled material.

But our collective need to gawp at megastars on the Cote d'Azur will not be denied.

One film in this year's competition accounts for an outsize share of the celeb-count: Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch includes Chalamet, Benicio del Toro, Bill Murray and many more.

Two other stars of that film – Tilda Swinton and Lea Seydoux – will be near-ubiquitous on the Croisette, with appearances in a remarkable eight movies between them.

Damon is in town for the premiere of his latest thriller, the Marseilles-set Stillwater.

But Cannes is all about the filmmakers, and after last year's edition was cancelled due to the pandemic, a particularly rich crop of festival alumni is competing for the Palme d'Or.

Among those submitting themselves to the famously blunt audiences of Cannes are several past winners: Italy's Nanni Moretti with his new film Tre Piani, France's Jacques Audiard with Les Olympiades and Thailand's master of the slow-burn Apichatpong Weerasethakul with his English-language debut Memoria.

Here are the 24 films competing for the Palme d'Or as the Cannes Film Festival returns with a jury led by US director Spike Lee.

1. 'Annette' by Leos Carax, France

Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard star as a glamorous celebrity couple whose lives are upended by the arrival of their first child.

The first film in a decade from auteur Carax is also the first in English from the eccentric French mind behind arthouse favourites Holy Motors and The Lovers on the Bridge.

2. 'The French Dispatch' by Wes Anderson, US

Film fans can never get enough of Anderson, and his latest quirky bauble can be counted on for more obsessively curated sets and shots, 20th-century nostalgia, family disharmony and Murray.

Plus yet more megastars in Anderson's menagerie in the form of Chalamet and Del Toro, and a set-up – foreign correspondents in France – that is likely to play well with critics at Cannes.

3. 'Benedetta' by Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands

From Robocop to Basic Instinct to Starship Troopers, Dutch director Verhoeven has always walked a fine line between gaudy schlock and cinematic genius. His latest tale recounts an affair in a 17th-century convent, starring Virginie Efira and Charlotte Rampling.

4. 'A Hero' by Asghar Farhadi, Iran

Iran's lauded director Farhadi has worked in several languages but returns to his homeland for his latest, details of which are scant. He has won awards all over, including Oscars for A Separation and The Salesman, which also won best screenplay at Cannes.

5. 'Tout s'est Bien Passe' (Everything Went Fine) by Francois Ozon, France

Featuring French stars Sophie Marceau and Rampling, France's prolific and eclectic director Ozon tells the story of a woman asked by her father to help him die.

6. 'Tre Piani' (Three Floors) by Nanni Moretti, Italy

Exactly 20 years after winning the Palme d'Or with The Son's Room and nine years after heading the main jury at Cannes, Moretti is back with his first-ever adaptation of a novel, which looks at three families who live on three different floors, in three chapters.

7. 'Titane' by Julia Ducournau, France

Starring French veteran actor Vincent Lindon, Titane is the second feature after Grave by horror film specialist Ducournau, which she reportedly wrote in six weeks between two Covid-19 lockdowns.

8. 'Red Rocket' by Sean Baker, US

The comedy-drama by indie filmmaker Baker features Simon Rex as an over-the-hill adult film star who returns to his hometown in Texas, where he is not very welcome, and hopes to build on the success of The Florida Project.

9. 'Petrov's Flu' by Kirill Serebrennikov, Russia

An alcohol-fuelled stroll by a cartoonist and his friend in post-Soviet Russia brings back childhood memories that get mixed up with the present. Serebrennikov is unable to attend Cannes due to a criminal conviction, widely seen as punishment for his political views.

10. 'France' by Bruno Dumont, France

The gritty director adapts a novel by Charles Peguy, killed in the First World War, updating it to chart the fall from grace of a star TV reporter in contemporary France.

11. 'Nitram' by Justin Kurzel, Australia

Following a smash hit adaptation of Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard and a less successful adaptation of video game Assassin's Creed, the Australian director looks at events leading up to the Port Arthur mass shooting in Tasmania that led to gun control reforms.

12. 'Memoria' by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand

Swinton stars in the slow-burn director's first film in English. It comes 11 years after he won the Palme d'Or for the dreamlike Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Shot in Colombia, Memoria follows a Scottish horticulturist as she tries to understand strange sounds in the night.

13. 'Lingui' by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Chad

Set in the outskirts of N'Djamena, Lingui tells the story of an adolescent whose unwanted pregnancy puts her in conflict with her country's traditions and the law. Haroun lives in France, but most of his films have been produced in his birth country of Chad, which he left during unrest in the 1980s.

14. 'Les Olympiades' (Paris 13th District) by Jacques Audiard, France

Audiard won the Palme in 2015 for Dheepan, but is best-known abroad for A Prophet and Rust and Bone. His latest is based on three graphic novels by US author Adrian Tomine and set in a mixed neighbourhood of Paris. It features four young people who are sometimes friends, sometimes lovers, and sometimes both.

15. 'The Restless' by Joachim Lafosse, Belgium

Starring Leila Bekhti and Damien Bonnard, the film tells the story of a couple under stress due to Bonnard's character suffering from bipolar disorder, and who do their best to protect their child.

16. 'The Divide' by Catherine Corsini, France

Two decades after her film Replay entered the Cannes competition, Corsini returns with a drama about a couple stuck in a hospital that comes under siege during a violent Paris demonstration inspired by the Yellow Vests movement.

17. 'The Worst Person in the World' by Joachim Trier, Norway

A film about love and its complications, Trier's latest concludes an accidental trilogy of films based in Oslo, exploring exclusion and isolation. It tells the story of Julie, turning 30 and looking for answers in a new relationship, only to be let down by reality.

18. 'Hytti nro 6' (Compartment No 6) by Juho Kuosmanen, Finland

Two strangers – a Finnish woman and a gloomy Russian – share a train compartment winding its way up to the Arctic circle in a road movie set against the backdrop of the 1980s Soviet Union. Kuosmanen hopes to follow the success of his charming, low-key boxing flick, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki.

19. 'Casablanca Beats' by Nabil Ayouch, France-Morocco

Ayouch rocks the suburbs of Casablanca with a film about young people seeking an outlet through hip-hop in an underprivileged neighbourhood made infamous in 2003 after a group of radicalised local youth carried out suicide bombings in the city.

20. 'Ha'Berech' (Ahed's Knee) by Nadav Lapid, Israel

After winning prizes in Locarno, Cannes and Berlin for his first three films, Lapid explores two battles waged by an Israeli director, one against the death of freedom and one against the death of a mother, both of which are doomed to failure.

21. 'Drive My Car' by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Japan

An aging, widowed actor looking for a chauffeur ends up hiring a 20-year-old woman. Things go wrong between them at first, but then a special relationship emerges.

22. 'Bergman Island' by Mia Hansen-Love, France

An American film-making couple spends a summer on Faro, the windswept Baltic island that inspired Ingmar Bergman. Reality and fiction start to blur as the weeks pass.

23. 'A Felesegem Tortenete' (The Story of My Wife) by Ildiko Enyedi, Hungary

Featuring France's Seydoux, who features in three of the films in competition this year, Enyedi's film begins with a bet by a sea captain that he'll marry the first woman who walks in. It follows Enyedi's Golden Bear win at Berlin in 2017 for On Body and Soul.

24. 'Flag Day' by Sean Penn, US

Star actor Penn again steps behind the camera for a film about a conman whose daughter struggles to come to terms with his choice of profession. Penn stars alongside his daughter Dylan, as well as Josh Brolin.

Updated: July 2nd 2021, 12:22 PM
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